Ignition Theatre is making a welcome comeback after a two-year hiatus.
The Red Deer professional theatre company, whose shut-down in 2012 was much lamented by subscribers, is launching a limited 2014-15 season of two plays — the Tennessee Williams classic The Glass Menagerie and a world premiere of the locally written Oral Fixations.
Artistic director Matt Grue said he’d been fielding questions from the community about when Ignition would be back ever since he and his partner Stephanie Ridge decided to wind down the operation in 2012.
At first, the pair were more interested in doing some writing projects and filming the locally-made adaptation Year After Year than resurrecting the theatre company known for taking on challenging, controversial and cutting edge productions.
But more recently, Grue began talking to local playwrights Leslie Greentree and Blaine Newton about staging their new work, Oral Fixations, under the Ignition name.
Suddenly, relaunching the company began to take on an appeal.
Grue admitted, “I think we needed to recharge a little bit from doing four to five shows a year.” Trying to keep up that momentum took a toll and resulted in some “less than artistically stimulating” productions, he added.
Despite this personal assessment, many audience members continue to associate Ignition Theatre with high quality, memorable theatrical experiences, including the plays Tuesdays with Morrie, The Laramie Project, The Drawer Boy, Deathtrap, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, It’s a Wonderful Life, My Name is Rachel Corrie, Bug and others.
Grue said some were highly popular with audiences, while others drew only small crowds. This time, he and Ridge would like feedback from the public on which kind of plays they would like to see staged in the city.
He realizes that Ignition Theatre has to fit in with other existing entertainment operations, including Central Alberta Theatre, Bull Skit and Red Deer College. Since there are a lot of other local options for the entertainment dollar, he said, “we’d rather have two shows (that are well attended) than people choosing to see only two out of our five shows.”
Ignition Theatre will start with the premiere of Oral Fixations from Oct. 9 to 18 and The Glass Menagerie from March 12 to 21. The latter will be co-produced with Red Deer’s Prime Stock Theatre. Grue said he’s pleased to partner with the other local company to give audience members a “richer theatrical experience.”
Part of the challenge in starting up again after a two-year absence is that many of the talented regional actors who previously appeared in Ignition’s productions have gone on to promising careers in Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto. While this is good news — Grue said his goal was always to “get people started and send them away” to brighter prospects — it means he will have to start again with a new group of actors.
Auditions are set for June 8 for both productions, which are set to run in the Scott Block in downtown Red Deer.
Grue is eager to present Williams’s classic about the disintegration of a family and its myths, as well as the new original play by Greentree and Newton about society’s preoccupation with food — which can be a substitute for love, comfort and sex, among other things.
Now that Ignition’s back, he hopes other local playwrights will begin submitting more new scripts for future consideration. “It’s an opportunity for their plays to be produced, so it makes a lot of sense.”
Tickets for the new season will be available from Sept. 2. For more information about ticket packages and sponsorship opportunities, visit www.ignitiontheatre.ca.